UK's Official Development Assistance for 2021 at a glance

UK's Official Development Assistance for 2021 at a glance

The UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) decreased by about 21% in 2021 compared to 2020 following the government’s decision to reduce this to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI). This is the first time since 2013 that the country failed to meet the UN objective of 0.7% of GNI for international aid. Recent data unveiled by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) also shows that the UK spent more aid within the country on refugee costs than on education, humanitarian assistance, health or water and sanitation. Moreover, as this trend is expected to continue, bilateral ODA is likely to further decrease.

In 2021, the UK allocated 0.5% of its GNI for ODA representing over a £3.0 million reduction down to £11.5 million compared to the previous year. The UK spent about £7.1 million or 62.6% of its ODA on bilateral aid which is provided directly to countries by the UK and £4.3 million or 37.4% on multilateral aid that was provided to multilateral institutions. Compared to 2020, bilateral aid shrank by £2.4 billion whereas multilateral aid decreased by just £0.7 billion.

Fig.1. UK ODA levels (£ billions) and ODA: GNI ratios (%), 1970 – 2021

Source: Statistics on International Development: Final UK Aid Spend 2021

Main beneficiaries

In 2021, Africa topped the list of the regions benefiting from the UK’s bilateral ODA with about £1.7 billion or a 50.5% share of the total. However, even though Africa received almost half of the total bilateral aid, the region still received £883 million less bilateral support than it did in 2020. Asia came second with £1.3m bilateral ODA while the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific received the least bilateral support from the UK with £196 million, £154 million and £10 million, respectively.

At country level, Afghanistan benefitted from the largest amount of bilateral ODA – £187 million with Nigeria being second on the list with £140 million bilateral aid. Pakistan was the third largest recipient with £128 million.

Fig.2. Top 20 recipient countries, 2021

Source: Statistics on International Development: Final UK Aid Spend 2021

In 2021, the FCDO, as the largest contributor, spent over £8.2 million on ODA, £2.5 million less than in 2020. Overall, in 2021, the FCDO’s share of total UK ODA was 71.6% compared to 73.7% in 2020. Non-FCDO spending on ODA in 2021 was £3.2 million, or 28.4%, compared to £3.8 million, or 26.3%, in 2020.

Fig.3. Total ODA spent by contributor, 2021

Source: Statistics on International Development: Final UK Aid Spend 2021

ODA distribution per sector

In 2021, the UK spent the largest amount of bilateral ODA, £1.1 million, to cover the cost of refugees in donor countries, almost double the amount of £628 million in 2020. The main reason for this was the increase in the Home Office’s ODA budget. Moreover, the UK Government has recently announced that it plans to increase UK’s aid to cover the Home Office’s UK refugee costs by £1 billion in 2022 and £1.5 billion in 2023.

Other sectors that received the most bilateral ODA in 2021 were health (£970 million down from £1.6 billion,) economic infrastructure and services, multisector/cross-cutting, and government and civil society. in 2022 in 2023.

Fig.4. Bilateral ODA, top 5 sectors, 2021

Source: Statistics on International Development: Final UK Aid Spend 2021

As for multilateral ODA, the European Commission – Development Share of Budget topped the list of the 20 largest recipients in 2021, benefitting from £684 million or 16% of the total. International Development Association, the second largest recipient, received £670 million or a 15.7% share of the total.

Fig.5. Top 20 largest multilateral recipients



Source: Statistics on International Development: Final UK Aid Spend 2021

ODA cuts decried 

In response to the 2021 statistics and the recent announcement by the UK Government, the director of policy, advocacy, and research, at Bond, a UK network for INGOs, Simon Starling, said:

“Yet again, the government looks set to force further cuts to UK aid which will mean more programmes delivering lifesaving healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and shelter will come to an end. Over the last three years, UK aid has already been slashed by £3 billion because this government chose to balance its books on the backs of marginalised communities. With a further £1.7 billion of cuts around the corner, it is becoming impossible for the government to honour its commitments. People already facing poverty, climate change and famine are paying the price for the increase in the Home Office’s UK-based refugee costs. The additional resources to cover the costs of hosting refugees in the UK are welcome but insufficient. It is shocking that we are now spending more UK aid on this rather than on health, humanitarian assistance, education or water and sanitation.”